Saturday, April 12, 2014


Go to this link to read about different qualities of various threads.  This makes sense.  I will be shopping for Mettler.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mickey and Disappearing Nine Patch

I went over to the QuiltZoo this afternoon.  Nina and Bonnie encourage us to come and hang out on Fridays so that we can sew and commune.  I haven't had a chance to get there much.  Today I was determined to do so.

I vacuumed 5 months worth of crud out of the front of the red Jetta this morning and then gathered up some fabric, a machine and some sewing notions and headed over.

When I got there, Barb was having tension issues with her Singer.  She had given up on Mickey, her brother embroidery machine.  It seems that when she was vacuuming that morning, the thread from Mickey got caught in the vacuum and before Barb noticed, all of the thread was unwound from the spool and wound onto the beater bar of her vacuum.  This activity bent the needle and rendered the machine useless even though Barb changed the needle, and rethreaded top and bottom.

We figured out that the Singer tension problem was using a class 15 bobbin in an Apollo bobbin case (class 66 bobbins).  She began, happily, sewing on her quilt binding .  I tried my hand at Mickey. Trusting that what I had been told was true,(new needle, new thread top and bobbin)  I took off the needle plate and tried to figure out what was wrong.  I could not.  The machine would pick up one stitch but would not sew after that . AT ALL.

I looked at the top threading.  It was impossible to figure out.  I saw a bobbin in there(not pictured) and asked:

"Did you re-thread the top, when you changed the needle?"  I asked. 

"Yes, we did." Barb admitted to using a bobbin, not a spool of thread on top.  WTHK if that makes a difference. 

 I suggested that we use a real spool of thread.

That whole gizmo comes out.  Really.  What you see under that plastic is a cartridge of sorts.  You wind the thread through its path and then, with the machine turned on, gently place the whole thing back into the machine and it automatically threads the needle. 

It worked. 

That will be fifty bucks, Ma'am.

 I wasn't surprised that the machine wasn't stitching when I saw the condition of the bobbin she was using on top.   It was loosely wound and very uneven.  I bet that automatic threading mechanism was confused and just doing the best it possibly could.

So I was finally able to sew.  I had taken along my Keatherweight (I love that machine) and some pre-cut squares.  I wanted to construct a nine patch block and show Barb how to make it disappear.

First make a nine patch block.   Then cut it in half one way and then the other to make four smaller blocks.  I used a Jewel pack that has been kicking around for ever.  I didn't really like this combination.

The fun begins once you have the smaller blocks.  There are many possible arrangements.

Sorry about the lousy iPhone photos.  But you get the idea.

I finished piecing a D9P (Disappearing9patch) on Wednesday.  I used a lovely, 1938 201.  I love that machine too.

I strip pieced these blocks and got confused in the process.  There are 16 original blocks.   I had intended to piece all 16 identically but made a mistake and ended up with 8 each of two different combinations.  It worked out OK, though.  I love this fabric.  Yes, some would prefer that the peacocks and other birds were all oriented in the same direction.  I don't mind.  The vibrant colors make up for that error.

My goal is to finish this and quilt it on the frame with the mid arm Baily Home Quilter.  Lofty goals. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Kenmore and a Montgomery Ward

It snowed again today right after I gave Frannie her hair cut.  It didn't last long.  The sun tried to come out but the clouds kept beating it back.  The dogs and I went for a walk just as a little bit of sunshine peaked through the clouds.   I neglected to wear gloves; the triumph of hope over experience.  My hands were cold and I cut the walk short.  The dogs didn't mind the wind, the snow or the cold.   The ground was bare and a winter's worth of deer and rabbit poop awaited them.  YUM.

I burned up almost the last of the shop fire wood today.  Betsy came over and we each worked on a machine.  She had a Kenmore (darn, she always gets the Kenmores!) and I pulled out a Montgomery Ward Free arm I have been itching to service for years.  Yes, years.  I bought this machine in 2012 at the same time that I bought a Singer 301 Long bed.  I remember the day.  Steven and I drove to Albany to fetch the 301.  The seller brought out the Montgomery Ward too.  I looked at it, saw that it was a free arm and brought it home.

Since then I have been wanting to get it on the bench.  Instead I kept moving it around the shop.  Someone built a very nice, custom, plywood case for it. The case weighs almost as much as the machine. 

 The machine is all metal, save the hand wheel and some of the knobs.  The camstack is metal.  It was kind of gummed up but a little bit of Tri Flow got it going.

The shuttle gears look miniature to me.  At least compared to Kenmores
The extension table is solid and metal.  It fits into the bed of the machine in three places.  I think it is more secure that the extension tables on the Taiwanese made Kenmores of the late 70s. 

Oh Boy.  I love this machine. Twin Needle capability.  Four stretch stitches, two decorative stitches, straight stitch and zig zag.  You could even put the needle in left position if wanted.  PLUS a very nice, functional built in button hole stitch.  All of the stitches work beautifully.  Comes with some attachments and the manual.  Sweet Machine.  I wonder who made Montgomery Ward machines?  Janome? 

UPDATE. 4/6/14
  Betsy found this information on another blog.

 Yesterday I picked up the Kenmore to service for a customer.  Actually I picked up two machines.  The Kenmore and a Montgomery Ward Straight Stitch HA-1 Class 15.  Unfortunately the wiring on the 15 is a MESS and I put it aside until we could talk to the owner.  It is definitely worth fixing.  It is a lovely machine.

The Kenmore is a 385.  It isn't a clamshell but it isn't metal, either.  It was pretty dirty, gummed up and reverse didn't work.

It is a class 15 machine too; a drop in bobbin.  The bobbin case was loose in the race when Betsy opened up the machine.  I have no idea how she got it working, but she managed to free up the reverse mechanism and we put it through every stitch.  It sews pretty nicely, we have to admit.  We figure the more experience we get with these kinds of machines, the better off we are.  These machines will probably show up in our shop. We'd best know how to fix 'em.

Just the same  I would hate to have to take this mechanism apart.  This is the base of the free arm.

I don't really like the way the stitch selector works on this machine.  It feels chintzy to me.  But I must admit that the recommendations for stitch length, width and presser foot type are useful.

I admit that it made a decent stitch.   For people who want a lot of bells and whistles, it is likely an ok machine, for the time being.  Not for the long haul.  Even my latest love, Ward, likely won't still be stitching in 2084.   I betcha the 1938 Singer 201 will be.  If the motor lasts that long.  I don't see why it wouldn't.     

Friday, April 4, 2014


Check out the bobbin winder on this White 221K
OK  I will make it easier for you
Now I admit, it is an innovative design.  The only problem?  It doesn't seem to work.  I have a replacement for it and the broken motor pulley.  Tomorrow, transformation will take place and I hope to get this little guy stitching again.

A friend and reader (Thank you Betty)  sent me some information from another blog about the drive belt on these machines.  Without permission, I am posting it here:

Unfortunately when I click on the link above, Dave McCallum's Blog, nothing shows up.  So, here is what was sent to me:

 What about the "white" Featherweight?

Monday, Nov 21 2011 10:39 PM | All kinds of other stuff, Featherweight 221

    The white machine is not the same as the black or tan machines.
    How so?
    The white machines body is made cast from the same aluminium alloy as the black and tan machines although the lifting bed extension is made of stamped sheet steel. This was but one production cost savings utilized by Singer so that they could keep producing a machine that had been getting too expensive to keep manufacturing and sell at a price that people would still afford.
     The power cord does not unplug from the base of the machine as the earlier black Featherweights do which was another production cost savings. I prefer a machine that the electrical cord can be unplugged from for storage or carrying about. It really is not the end of the world for me but simply a personal preference.
    The steel base extension works quite well and is strong. This base extension on the white machine is about an inch and a half shorter than the cast aluminum extension found on all black and tan machines. To some this might seem important but actually it doesn't change things much in use.
    The most notable difference and the greatest money saver for Singer was to be found internal to the machine. The black and tan machines are all gear driven, but the design change to the white machine utilizes a cogged drive belt. This had quite the effect on the bottom line.
    How does the cogged belt effect the white machine when compared to the gear driven black and tan machines? The internal belt drive (rather than gears) has proven to be very reliable and it typically runs quieter than its black and tan siblings. I have talked with Graham Forsdyke and Glenn Williams about their experience with the belt drive and they concur with what has been my experience, there is no problem with the cogged belt drive. Although Graham had seen one fail when a person was "adjusting" the belt with his pocket knife. Obviously, this is a design flaw.
    In the 1950s, type-writers were cleaned by immersing them in a chemical bath not unlike the early dry cleaning chemicals. Type writers were soaked, shaken while immersed and dried. Then they were oiled again. Sewing machine service people tried this immersion in cleaning chemicals with Featherweights and found that it worked very well with the black and tan machines. In the 60's the white machine came about and the "sewing machine service people" put the white machine into the chemical bath and the internal drive belt melted in the harsh chemicals used for dry-cleaning back then. The service person had a three hour job ahead of them to remove the internal shafts and replace the cogged belt.The cure for this was that the service people told prospective buyers that "the white machine was not as good as the black machine, believe me I'm a service person and I know". If you are around white Featherweights long enough you will hear people say that "they had a Friend who said she heard that the white machine was not as good as the others. And now you know why. Telling this to prospective buyers kept the service people from getting their fingers dirty by having to clean a machine by hand rather than giving it a bath while they drank coffee. This is a "story" that you can take to the bank. I have talked with "old-timers" (which I am rapidly becoming) who have stated this is the truth.
    I have had to replace the gears in machines before, but never a cogged belt. In my experience the white machine (which isn't white, it is "pale celery" according to Singer) is every bit as good as any other color and I think it can be adjusted to sew marginally better than a well adjusted black or tan machine. I believe it runs smoother internally which in my opinion gives the machine its edge.
    I will not go so far as to say the white machine is better than the others, but it is not a compromised design as had been implied by Singer's own and definitely is not second place to any other.
Dave McCallum

Sunday, March 23, 2014

No Gears? Really?

I was at the Quilt Zoo yesterday dropping off a very nice 185.  I wanted to leave a machine there for advertising and for customers to try out.

While there a woman came in with her not black, not tan 221K.  It looks white to me but in the right light it could almost be pale mint green.  None the less, she wanted it serviced.  Lucky me to have been there at that moment.

"What ever it takes.  I have another one that I use.  My husband bought this for me at an auction.  I thought it would be good to get it cleaned up so that I would have another.  The belt doesn't run the machine."

So I brought it home.  The shop was warm (it's all relative up here in the North East.) So I set to work on it.  Betsy had already come by so we were both working on machines.  She had a Kenmore.  Lucky her.

 First  I checked  the wiring.   Directly wired to a clamshell controller.  No Three Pin Terminal here. It looked safe so I plugged it in. Nope, no machine action, but the motor sounded ok.   The belt was moving but there was a mess around the pulley.  Black powdery stuff.

I took off the belt.

"Maybe it's the wrong belt" chimed in Betsy as she looked over my shoulder.

"Nope, that's a 221 belt  I recognize the part number," said I.  Actually it was true, not that I have memorized parts numbers.  Yesterday I searched through the mass of belts that came with the South River Inventory (SRI) and found several FW belts.  Luckily they were labeled as such and I didn't have to look them up.

"Oh, look," she said, "the pulley is broken."

Sure enough it was destroyed.  I managed to remove it by loosening the set screw and wedging it off.

"OH Darn !  I just sent in the Brewer order. "

"How much do we have to spend before we get free shipping?" Betsy asked.

"One hundred and fifty dollars."

"No problem.  I will buy more thread."  she said.

Well.  I am thinking that more thread is the last thing she needs.  So instead, this morning I sent an email to Glenn Williams who has an abundance of FW and 301 parts.  I bet he has one.  Better that, than trying to beef up our order.

Yes, I did search the SRI for the pulley but had no luck. "See, that's what irritates me about this stash of parts," I whined.  "All this stuff and not what I need."

As long as I had the motor off (part way off, it was still all wired to the controller). I checked the brushes.  Oh my.  I had never seen motor brushes this low.
Oh, I am not in the mood to pull this motor apart.  I wonder what would happen if I just blew some compressed air through that motor?

"Big noise," I warned Betsy as I plugged in the compressor.
The air around my work bench looked like the last scene in Ghost when that evil spirit was blown away.  Remember?  It was just a black cloud  rushing out of the room.  That's what came out of the motor.  Black soot and more black soot. 

I dropped new brushes in and tested the motor.  Sounded good.  No ozone odor.  Good.

I set about servicing the rest of the machine. I took off the bottom.  I looked again.  Something seemed wrong.  Where are the gears?

 I had heard that the later model 221s lacked gears and instead, utilized a drive belt.  Another indication that Singer was cheapening the machines.  This belt looks good, though.  Another reason to avoid the white FW.  Now I don't know if they all have belts.  Glenn would know.
Anyway, no gears to grease.  I oiled the feed mechanism and closed up the top.  I oiled the metal contacts on the bottom. Then I looked at the bobbin case base and the hook.

"Oh boy, I sure don't want to pull the hook to get that out. "  I muttered.

It really isn't that hard to pull a hook on a FW or a 301.  It is a matter of loosening two screws, for heaven's sake.  I just didn't want to do it.  You have to pay attention to the flat and position the hook correctly when you replace it.  If you don't mark the screw that tightens into the flat, you can put the hook on the wrong way.  AMHIK. 

I completely removed the screw that tightens onto the flat and loosened the other one enough to remove the hook.  Of course the hook was glued in with old oil.  Nothing a little denatured alcohol couldn't release.

In order to remove the looper, I had to tighten the left behind screw completely and remove the screw holding on the looper.  Don't loose this screw.  

I polished the looper and the back of the hook.  I checked the hook or burrs and reassembled everything.  Because I had been a clever old lady I was able to pop the hook on easily and not have to fart around with adjusting its position.  The machine stitches.  I can't test it with the motor yet.  Gotta wait for the motor pulley.

 There is more work to be done.  It turns out that it was a good thing that I removed the hook.  There was another thread wrapped about the shaft.  I cleared it, and the rust, away before replacing the hook.

This poor little machine has been well used.  It has some battle scars.  I think it will still stitch but I doubt the stitch will be as nice as the FWs with gears.  Who knows?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Every picture tells a story....

Except that I am fresh out of photos.

I upgraded and have a new Mac Book Pro.  It is fast, light and powerful.  No disc drive.  I can't upload Photo Shop Elements, my editing program, yet.  No external disc drive until just today.

So, until I can get it together to do that, no photos.  (OK for all of you computer geeks: Yes, it is possible to down load the program from the internet.  I live in the country.  I don't have unlimited bandwidth and we are near our "quota" of use for March.  So I am going to do it the old fashioned way.  From something plastic, on a little round disc.)

I must say this.  Betsy came over yesterday and we worked on machines.  She worked on a very nice Japanese badge Necchi Alco.  I worked on the Singer 5808C. 

I couldn't get the tension right.  Turns out, the tension assembly wouldn't work.   I finally gave up, called it a goner and declared it done.  Betsy left for home and I went back to the Quilt Zoo (QZ) to return Barb's machine.  I explained the dilemma and  told her that I couldn't fix it.  She suggested she buy a Kenmore from us and arranged to come over to look.  I went home, hopeful for a sale. 

"There's a message on the machine, honey"  declared TBHITW last night just after dinner.

I saw the blinking light.

".....HI, it's me.  I figured it out. That tension assembly just pops out.  It's plastic.  Just be careful that you don't break it..."

I called her back. She had looked at the Singer 5817 we now own (broken gears, not worth fixing but very similar to the 5808) and removed the tension assembly.  I could tell that she really, really wanted me to fix that machine. 

"OK I will call Barb and let her know that we might be able to salvage her machine after all."

Betsy brought the 5817 over this morning on her way out of town. She also brought over two Kenmores to show Barb if she did call.

So, when Barb did, indeed, call today I explained the whole story to her. 

"What do you think?" she asked. 

Honestly.  I was pretty sick of the  5808C   but I hate to give up. If we could fix it, I could re-coup some of my investment in effort.  I advised that she should bring the machine over and if we can fix it, great.  If not, she can look at the machines we have. 

She brought the 5808C back.  She pulled the old assembly out and we popped the used one from the 5817 in.   It makes a nice stitch, every stitch.  It has stretch stitches and zz and a built in button hole.  But the presser foot lifter was FUNKY.

I handed her the screw drivers and she took the top and the needle bar covers off.  I figured I had spent enough time on that machine.  She looked at the 5817, figured out what was wrong and I looked at the 5808C and agreed.  We fixed it.  She put the machine back together and that, my friends was that. 

"Oh, I love this stuff."  she declared. 

Good.  I may have infected another with SMAD.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Singer 5808C

Today I went to the new quilt shop in my neighborhood.  It is only 7.4 miles from my home.  All the other fabric stores are far away.  This one opened up a few weeks ago.  I am delighted.

Nina and Bonnie run the Quilt Zoo in Worcester NY.  It has a lovely selection of fabric.  But more importantly, it has a great class room.  On Fridays, Nina and Bonnie open the classroom to sewists who want to hang out and get help with projects.  I drove over, intending to just drop in for a bit.  Instead I drove back home, picked up a machine and went back.  We had a blast.  It is just so much more fun to sew with others.

While there, I picked up a machine for service.  Barb told me she had an old Kenmore.  My eyes lit up.  She went upstairs to fetch it and came back with a Singer.

"I know it hasn't been run in this century."  She proclaimed.

"Oh, we just had one of these in the shop.  The gears in that machine were cracked.  I will check it out and if the gears are good, I will clean it all up for you.  It isn't a Kenmore but it will be serviceable for you."

My intent was to delve into it tomorrow morning.  Instead, I couldn't resist.  I wanted to check out those plastic gears.

You can't see from this photo, but the gears are good.   They were covered with a white grease.  It was moist, not hardened.  I wiped enough away to assess the situation. No cracks that I could see.   Guess I will be cleaning it up in the morning.

The needle bar area is pretty clean but there are some plastic parts.  The light is also in the way.  I think I can work around it. 
It's a drop in, class 66 bobbin. I think it uses the Apollo bobbin case.    I wanted to check out the shuttle mechanism before I went in for dinner.   I popped off the bottom.  All righty then. 
The belt is in good shape.  I don't see too much to do in here.  I blew out the dust bunnies.  Makes my job simple.

 To be sure, I did not get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I saw this machine in the first place.  I can guarantee that there will be no SMROs either as I work on this machine.  Just the same, I think that it will be OK for her.  She is just beginning to sew and is using a computerized Brother embroidery machine now.
It looked like this one.

This Singer is simpler and, as Nina suggested, would be good to use for piecing.  That way Barb can save the Brother for Embroidery.  (Frankly I think the Singer is better looking than the Brother.  But that is like saying Winston Churchill is better looking than W. C. Fields)

 But, boy, I sure wish it had been a Kenmore.